Friday, February 01, 2008

Back Atcha, Katharine

The news has already broken, but the Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin has responded to the Presiding Bishop's ill-advised missive of a week ago. It is not exactly diplomatic language, but the circumstances do seem to call for directness:

As sent and posted to the Presiding Bishop’s email address earlier this morning, 02/01/08. The letter sent from the Presiding Bishop is in the next post down.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Office of the Presiding Bishop
The Episcopal Church Center
New York City, New York

Friday, February 01, 2008

We have received your letter dated January 25 in which you state that you do not recognize us individually as members of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin. We find your statements, published by ENS on the internet and read in Hanford prior to most of us receiving the actual letter, to be unhelpful. While you may hold any personal opinion you wish as an individual, the office of Presiding Bishop does not have the legal, canonical or moral authority to proclaim for the Episcopal Church non-recognition of duly elected members of a diocesan Standing Committee. Without having any canonical or constitutional authority to refuse to recognize us, we cannot accept your opinion as changing our status as the canonical Standing Committee of the Diocese.

We regret that you have based your “understanding” on conjecture and misinformation. Since you do not provide any evidence of specific acts of the Standing Committee, nor proof of any wrong doing, we are unable to comment in detail on acts or events you may have relied upon to form your “understanding”. We regret you didn’t attempt to confirm your understanding with the President of our Standing Committee when you called him on January 9th, or on any other occasion.

You cite Canon I.17.8 as setting a standard of duty for anyone in elected position in The Episcopal Church, however neither this canon nor any other canon gives the office of Presiding Bishop [or any other person] sole privilege to interpret what constitutes a failure to “well and faithfully perform the duties” of any office. If the interpretation of failure to “well and faithfully perform the duties” of office is open to anyone, a cursory look at your performance in office would be cause for a great number of Episcopalians to find that you “have been and are unable to well and faithfully fulfill your duties as” Presiding Bishop. To name just a few of your canonical violations:

  • Ordination of the Bishop of Virginia without the specific written consents from a majority of Standing Committees as required in Canon III.11.4.b;
  • Your intentional withholding [from May ’07 to January ‘08] of notification and failure to bring before the House of Bishop’s meeting in September 2007 the abandonment of communion finding of the Title IV review committee against Bishop Cox as required in Canon IV.9.2;
  • Your stated intent to delay consideration of the abandonment of communion finding of the Title IV review committee against Bishop Duncan past the March 2008 meeting of the House of Bishop’s [including your intentional withholding of notification from December 16, ’07 to January 15, ‘08] again in violation of the requirements of Canon IV.9.2.
  • Establishing a missionary congregation in Bakersfield and appointing a priest who is not canonically resident to be under the supervision of Canon Moore and under your authority in violation of Canon I.13.2b and Canon III.9.6

With this evidence of your willful disobedience to the requirements of Canon, many Episcopalians could, using your own words, state they “do not recognize you as” the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. And of course, in the spirit of reconciliation, we would encourage you to be aware a “future declaration of adherence to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church and a reaffirmation of the Declaration of Conformity, will once again make you eligible for election to office in the Episcopal Church.”

We regret the decisions you have made to misuse the Canons of The Episcopal Church. We acknowledge your personal opinion of our status as members of the Standing Committee for the Diocese of San Joaquin. In accordance with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, we ARE the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese of San Joaquin in the event the House of Bishops should choose to depose Bishop John-David Schofield. Any attempt on your part, or on the part of any other person, to circumvent or replace the Standing Committee as the Ecclesiastical Authority will be a violation of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.

J. Snell
M. McClenaghan
R. Eaton
K. Robinson
T. Wright
R. James

This return volley isn't even the end of the game, let alone the set or the match. Unless, that is, the Presiding Bishop does the right and honorable thing and admits her error, and apologizes publicly to the six very courageous individuals.


Anonymous said...

Further evidence that Presiding Bishop Schori had it wrong from the get-go: a diocese can leave The Episcopal Church, but the people can't.

Anonymous said...

What? cajetan, people can leave and they have and they do!

Fr. Dan, you and Stand Firm must be on the same "post-it" speed. It didn't take you that long either before or after them to post this bit of news!
But, what can the SC really do between now and mid March when Bishop Schofield is deposed? Really what's next?

Jon said...

So have the members of the SC decided in favor of remaining in TEC? Or are they trying to say that non-TEC folks can be members of a TEC standing committee? Or are they trying to say that dioceses can secede from TEC and keep the property?

Unless they want to bring charges against the PB, it seems to me that making accusations against the PB is an attempt to avoid the question of the moment.


Anonymous said...

ODC, the Standing Committee isn't the ecclesiastical authority while the Bishop is just inhibited. Under TEC rules, +JDS is still in charge of anything that can be considered TEC. From TEC's perspective..everything is still TEC. However (again wearing the TEC hat) the canons require certain things & Schori has violated a ton of them, especially in regards to San Joaquin.

Jon, it appears the SC are only showing just how silly the PB's letter is, not offering actual charges against her actions. If the PB assumes she has the authority to understand a set of actions as a violation of canon, & thereby remove an elected Standing Committee, why can't everybody assume the same authority to themselves? Yes it seems like playground behaviour, but in reality...she started it.

Please, I hope everyone smiled at that...please?

Jon said...

If they decide to go with the Southern Cone who's job will it be to tell them that they aren't the SC of the TEC diocese of SAn Joaquin?


Daniel Martins said...

First, I consider it highly unlikely (though not impossible) that any of the six will eventually decide to go the southern route. (Although the PB's continued intransigence may have the ironic effect of driving them that direction.) Second, in the event they some or all of the six do make that decision, they will cease claiming to be members of the Standing Committee of TEC's Diocese of San Joaquin. They won't need anybody to "tell" them; they'll announce it on their own. Note that the two members whom Bishop Schofield did not find "unqualified" do not claim to be part of the SJ/TEC Standing Committee. They consider themselves members of the SJ/Southern Cone Standing Committee. What we have, in effect, are two Standing Committees--one with two members and one which six members, each operating under basically the same set of canons, both now (under those canons) charged with filling the vacant positions (6 in the case of the "Coneheads," 2 in the case of the "Continuers"). Personally, I would like to see the "Continuers" now move to appoint two lay persons to fill the places vacated by Ted Yumoto and the gentleman from All Saints, Bakersfield whose name escapes me at the moment.

Aghaveagh said...

Father Dan,

I agree with you that these six are indeed courageous. One would wish for a higher level of maturity than the "You started it" argument they offer.

Taking the moral high ground would have done a great deal to ameliorate the situation. Instead, they have inflamed it, muddied the waters instead of clearing them, and they still have not told us how they stand.

If their intent as a standing committee was to prevent the defection to the Southern Cone, and if they felt the best way to do this was to keep their positions ambiguous, they indeed (I say again) are courageous. It is a dangerous tightrope to walk.

However, the time to be ambiguous is over. They need to put their cards on the table. Not because the canons require it, but because integrity demands it.

Anonymous said...

As I've said elsewhere on the web - bravo!

-miserable sinner

Jon said...

Will the "Coneheads" be recognizing that they've left the TEC diocese if it comes to a fight to see who controls the property. IANAL but I would have expected their contention to be that they took the corporation which is the dioese with them, leaving the "Continuers" the SC of nothing much.

Mind you, I think the PB acted far to hastily. It would have been better to ask and wait for clarification on their position WRT TEC.


Jon said...

Oops, that first sentence should have ended with a '?'.